The Monster

Yesterday I made an important discovery.

I finally faced the pain that is in the center of my being.

I have felt this pain before, countless times. I don't think a day has gone by in my life without it. But my response has always been: "I can't deal with this now. I will never be able to. This is too much for me. I need someone to help me. I can't look at this..." This response has always been so quick, so automatic and obvious and self-justified to me--as if there were no other possible responses--that I had never faced this pain consciously. I always looked away. I always escaped.

Yesterday, after weeks of making the effort of becoming more aware of everything that I feel and say and do, I looked at this center of pain for the first time. I stood still and faced it and looked at it. It was difficult. It was something like that soreness of throat that precedes tears or a desperate scream. It hurts in the chest and at the pit of the stomach.

This thing is a monster inside me. It has a shape and a color. It has legs. It squirms. It needs and needs and nothing is ever enough. It always appears in exactly the same way. It is terribly familiar to me. I looked at it. 

I saw it yesterday for the first time without giving into the involuntary impulse to look away. Because it became clear to me, with all that has been going on, that there is no escaping this thing. Escaping is not the way. The more I try to escape, the stronger it comes back later. I understood that I must turn toward this thing already. Look at it. See it. Face it. Breathe into it. Let this knot untie itself. So that I don't have to run away anymore.

I am tired of running away. 


This is what I refuse to give into again. I refuse to look away. I refuse to play parts. I refuse to give into fear and terror. I refuse to cry over this for the billionth time. To sail away in the usual river of tears. 

What is this monster? What does it want? I wanna know.

When was it born? What was I like before it came to be? How much of my being has it taken over? What have I salvaged and how? How long have I been asleep? And how can I rescue the rest of me from underneath the ruins? 

I know there is a way. And I know the way is nothing like what I have tried before. 

I know that "work" by itself will not kill this thing. My whole life I have worked. And if I work myself to death and win the highest honors, I know I will still come home to find the monster sitting inside of me, as if nothing had ever happened. Empty. Desperate. This is how I felt after I finished my Ph.D., which took nothing less than an entire life of ceaseless devotion and relentless determination. This is what I got when I returned home: the monster was still there, very much alive and unwell. More desperate than ever. And when I released my last album, Fellow Shade, I came back home and it was still there. 

These accomplishments are precious to other parts of "me," but they do nothing to the monster. Their bullets fly over and under and to its sides. 

I know that love and admiration from other people do nothing to the monster either. Love offers temporary relief. At times it even makes things worse. At times, being admired makes the monster squirm more. 

Nothing from the outside world can touch the monster. These things only help me to deny it is still there. 

I have to close myself entirely to the outside world when I want to fight this thing. I meet the monster when all doors are closed. No, it's not in the center of my being, but close, trying to squirm its way to the center. Carving infiltrations through the crystal. 

So what then? 

I will close myself to the outside--as if any of us had an alternative these days. 

I will look at the monster.

I think all it needs is my interior gaze. It needs MY attention. An attention without qualities, entirely neutral, without love or anger or judgment or will to fight or any other sentiment. This is how the monster softens and stops squirming and starts to melt. I don't know why but this works. The process is so noiseless. There aren't tears or screams or even thoughts. It is no more than a quiet looking at this thing, and it is strangely enough. 

All of a sudden the thread connecting all my actions is no longer the usual "running away." Running away from one thought to another, from one mindless comment to another, from one cowardly tear to the next, from one ambitious project to more and more ambitious ones. 

This is what I gain from this strange exercise. 

All of a sudden I am standing still.

All of a sudden I can see the outside.